HCMC police call neon signs poorly monitored tinder boxes

By Dam Huy – Cong Nguyen, Thanh Nien News

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Ho Chi Minh City police have warned that garish neon signs pose a huge risk of electrical fire in Vietnam's harsh southern climate.
Lieutenant Colonel Huynh Quang Tam of the HCMC Fire Police Department said neon sign fires have occurred with increasing frequency and the risks they pose are hard to control.
Tam said the outdoor wiring quickly becomes old and brittle and can cause short circuits, especially after a serious rain.
In the latest example of the risks they pose, police said a short circuit in the sign outside the New Karaoke parlor on Tran Quoc Thao Street in District 3 sparked a fire that killed a male customer and damaged eight nearby houses and shops in the evening of December 30, 2014.
Another ad board on Le Thanh Ton Street caught fire on the evening of October 31, sending hundreds of retailers and tourists in the area into a panicked flight.
On the night of June 28, the signboard above the Canalis bar on Hai Ba Trung Street exploded before bursting into flames. The fire spread to nearby houses but was put out before it could claim any lives.
The signboard outside the Crazy Buffalo bar and night club on De Tham Street caught fire in broad daylight on August 27, 2013, with dozens of customers present.
The police said a short circuit had caused the fire, which swept from the third floor down to the second and ground floors, without causing any injuries.
The city officials said dozens of similar fires occur in the city, every year.
A report issued by the HCMC Fire Police Department said the boards are vulnerable to fire since they aren't equipped with fuses and the lights are usually too big for the wiring to handle.
Most of the boards are installed high off the ground, which makes regular inspections and repairs difficult.
Tam said all the boards use high-voltage electricity but their fire safety knowledge remains questionable.
A leader at the department suggested that neon signs should be equipped with fuses, surge protectors and insulation from rain and sunshine.
The leader said people tasked with designing and installing the boards must receive training on electricity and fire safety.

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